April 20, 2004

Dum Komsrvativs.

Brian at Boviosity noted this:

Oh, I also learned that right-wingers have an easier message to get across because they simply tie everything into smaller government and personal responsibility, messages that stupid people like. And these stupid people ignore the left because the left doesn't have a single message like the right, and doesn't have any guiding principles since they take such an intellectual and subtle approach to everything, a fact which leaves them open to false charges of having no principles.


That's not the half of it.

With all due respect to my liberal friends and relatives, it takes more brain, not less, to be conservative.

From earliest childhood, we are all taught that you should help other people. A second-grader can articulate the main tenets of liberalism; give people what tey need. That same second-grader has the same grasp of the consequences that Ted Kennedy does - "Who'll pay for it? Who cares! Someone will!"

If that sounds dismissive, it's not meant to. [Not much - Ed] Big-L Liberalism - at least at its innermost level - embodies some good human instincts, the kind of things we try to teach our kids... least from the supply side. Yes, each of us as people should do our best to help other people. It's an ideal that crosses political boundaries (although Al Franken would probably have trouble with that notion), and fails to cross it in equal proportion.

But when you're a parent, sometime between second grade and high school graduation you have to teach your kids about consequences. It's a hard step to take - not only giving your kids consequences for their actions, but trying to teach them that in the real world, even doing the right thing can have its consequences.

We teach our kids that fighting solves nothing - but eventually they learn that sometimes fighting is sometimes even thrust upon the just and moral (especially if you're Rich Lowry and you offend Al Franken).

We teach our kids that all people are created equal - but over time they learn that once you leave the moral plane, not everyone is equal in every way. My friend the car mechanic can't write a blog; I can't rebuild carburetors (although nothing yet prevents either of us from learning).

We teach our kids - most of us, anyway - that gratification is often best delayed, and that sometimes hard work and patience is the only answer. That's just as true of helping people as it is of ones' own life. You need to try to help - but sometimes the best help isn't the obvious solution. The addict may benefit more from denial of her addiction than from feeding it.

Instant gratification is no more the right answer in the social realm than it is in ones personal life.

It's very counterintuitive to most people, taking life's hard lessons and superimposing them on the way we govern ourselves. We don't want our nation to fight - but sometimes war falls out of the sky on you. You treat people equally - but levelling out the peaks to fill in the valleys is dangrous.

It's hard to do - and it takes a mind that has learned to think dispassionately and analytically about one's government and the world around it. Which is why so many of the young trend to the left, and why so many conservatives are being born in college these days.

No, not all conservatives are brilliant - in fact, lots of single-issue conservatives (whether the issue is jet skis or gun control or abortion, as worthy as the issues are) deal just as much in jerking knees as the most myopic Wellstonian.

But conservatism - real conservatism - is about seeking answers that may be counterintuitive (read, may take some mental energy to find) - but that do much more good, or cause far less damage, in the long run.

Gratification is easy. Grace is difficult.

Posted by Mitch at April 20, 2004 05:11 AM

I have recently come to understand this concept in the course of a very depressing email exchange I've had with a liberal friend (ironically, about Rich Lowry and Al Franken). I was saddened and dismayed by the amount of bile and lack of reason demonstrated in his smallest point (or "point" as I should write it). I'm no genious, but I was able to detach my arguments from my emotions for the most part, something he seemed unable to do.

Thanks for articulating the point so well.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at April 20, 2004 09:05 AM

I often remember the "class discussions" we used to have in school. Teachers led such discussions in the hope of teaching us to think. The theory was that it wasn't enough to impart information. You have to help the kids learn how to put the information to use. A noble goal.

But the results were predictable. We'd talk the problem over -- racism, or crime, or whatever it might be -- and the conclusion we came to was always the same -- "The government needs to pass a law. We need a government program."

Which lead me to wonder if this thinking was the last thinking a lot of those kids ever did.

Posted by: Lars Walker at April 20, 2004 10:25 AM